Top 5 Reasons to attend the Plains Art Museum’s Spring Gala

by Diane Miller, High Plains Reader

Graphic by Alexis Dietz

Graphic for High Plains Reader by Alexis Dietz

Brazilian Carnaval meets the Plains Art Museum this May 2 for its biggest fundraiser event of the year. Here are HPR’s top 5 reasons to attend what we consider to be the best party of the year:

1) THE BRAZILIAN-THEMED MUSIC IS GOING TO BE LIVELY, UPBEAT AND DANCEABLE.

The 11-piece Carluster Crumplebee Brazilian Orchestra will feature some of the finest local musicians, including guitarist/band leader Tom Johnson and professional auxiliary percussionist Kenyon Williams.

Attendees will be invited to salsa, cha-cha, tango, merengue or just let loose to hours of music that will, according to Johnson, “make you want to get up and move whether you’re familiar with the music or not.”

“With the arrangements I’m writing, I am trying to encompass the long tradition of Carnaval music,” he says. “So some of the arrangements sound like Carnaval music from the ‘60s to the present, which includes playing their music in a traditional style all the way to playing American popular music in the style of a Brazilian Carnaval band and everything in between.”

2) SUPPORT LOCAL ART. BUY LOCAL ART. ENJOY LOCAL ART.

The Spring Gala features an art auction that includes pieces by more than 80 local and regional artists. In most cases, half the proceeds go to the artists and the other half goes toward the museum. So this is one of the most direct, feel-good ways people can support local art.

This year, similar to last year, all the voting will be done electronically. Though unlike any other year, people will now be able to make bids on their smart phones. So potential buyers with smart phones can make bids anywhere in the museum and also be immediately notified when someone else has outbid them. There will also be tech staff mingling about the museum with iPads to help people with bidding. It’ll make enjoying the party, seeing all the sights and enjoying all the food a lot more relaxing.

The featured artwork on HPR’s cover as well as on all the promotional material is by Star Wallowing Bull, one of the region’s most celebrated artists.

“We commissioned him to make this painting to be the visual identity of the entire event,” says Becky Dunham, curator of the museum. “So all of our staging for the event is going to be based on his figure and the color and composition, and all of our promotion is based on it as well.”

Some of the featured local artists in this year’s gala include Walter Piehl, Jr., Sabrina Hornung, Gin Templeton, Ben Rheault, Carl Oltvedt, Dan Francis, Amber Parsons, Steve Knutson and Meg Spielman Peldo.

Not every piece of submitted artwork gets selected for the auction. Dunham says, for her, the selection process is the trickiest part of organizing the auction.

Art by Star Wallowing Bull / Cover design by Raul Gomez

Art by Star Wallowing Bull / HPR cover design by Raul Gomez

“You want to pick what you think is the strongest piece by artists, but sometimes artists will end up submitting things that look similar,” she says. “So then you have to go back to the drawing board and say, ‘What is different from these works that is still really strong?’ And then make sure you have an equal balance of different types of artwork … Paintings, print making, drawing, collage, lots of three dimensional stuff. So the selection process is actually really tricky.”

While in past years, some interested buyers left empty handed after getting outbid, this year, attendees can get a limited edition print by the museum’s print studio manager, Amanda Heidt, if they donate $100 or more to the museum.

Also new to the auction are art experiences. For the right price, gala-goers have the option of spending the night at the Plains Art, taking an art trip with Plains Art CEO Colleen Sheehy to the Twin Cities or taking a three-hour ceramics class.

“Having as eclectic of a mix as possible in here is my goal. So there’s a wide variety of different types of artworks. There’s a wide variety of sizes and a wide variety of price points, a wide variety of subject matter and styles too. So regardless of who the customer is, the attendee of the event, hopefully they will find something they like.”

3) THE FOOD WILL LOOK AND TASTE INCREDIBLE.

Want to know what’s on the menu? Sara Watson, owner of Mosaic Foods, gave us the scoop on dinner:

Assorted pastel: hearts of palm, lemon grilled shrimp, garlic and cumin chicken
Bauru: (roast beef sandwich)
Salpicao: (chicken salad with shoestring potatoes)
Grilled beef sirloin skewers with chimichurri
Romeo and Julieta: (fresh mozzarella with guava paste)
Whole poached salmon
Pao de queijo (cheese dinner rolls)
Bison meatballs with creamy vermouth sauce
Vegetable spring rolls with peanut sauce
Candied bacon crab cakes with caper aioli
Fresh vegetable crudite with hummus and pesto
Tropical fruit platter
Antipasto platter
Air dried meats, cheeses, breads and crackers
Mushroom and boursin cheese crostinis

You’ll just have to attend to see what kind of colorful sweets Nichole’s Fine Pastry has lined up.

And yes, there will be plenty of wine, beer and spirits provided by Happy Harry’s and Sidestreet Grille & Pub.

4) THIS YEAR’S PARTY WILL BE MORE EXTRAVAGANT, COLORFUL AND FESTIVE IN LOOK AND IN FEEL THAN EVER BEFORE.

Of course, the theme of Carnaval is dependent on bright colors and amusing visuals. That’s why the Spring Gala leadership hired theatrics expert Ryan Domres.

“A big thing this year is to really try to expand the event and make it more of a metropolitan type of feel so that it’s just a huge, huge spectacle,” Domres said.

There will be aerialists, including girls on silks and chandelier girls, and plenty of other costumed performers that will be guiding guests into different parts of the museum.

There will also be a number of installations made up of colorful fabrics, flagging tapes, industrial saran wrap and ribbon throughout the three floors of the museum.

“It’s finding spectacle, but it’s also finding the experiences within the spectacle so that it becomes more than just visual appeal. And I would say probably the first 30 minutes of the event will just be visual appeal, the ‘oohs’ and the ‘ahs,’” Domres said. “And once we get past that we’ll get more into the social hour and get more into the experiences of the evening, where it’s more one-on-one connections or group connections with the performers.”

5) PLAYING DRESS UP AT THIS YEAR’S GALA WILL BE EXTRA WILD, VIBRANT AND COLORFUL.

Deciding on what to wear for this event? A lot of gala attendees come dressed to impress. To fit the theme, Domres especially suggests wearing bright colors. He also encourages women to sport a fun headdress.

Most importantly, wear something that’s comfortable for moving around and dancing, of course.

“Brazilian Carnaval is an event that allows everyone in the community to be what they would normally not be,” Domres says. “So it’s a moment for you to kind of step out of your normal box and to be something different … to embody a different part of yourself and really feel confident about it.”

IF YOU GO:

Spring Gala: Carnaval!

Sat, May 2, 7 p.m. to midnight

Plains Art Museum, 704 1st Ave N, Fargo

www.plainsart.org